President, Local 420
She spent years getting the pulse of her hospital coworkers, something that has served her well as president of Local 420, the 10,000-member New York City Municipal Hospital Employees union.
Charles’ career at NYC Health + Hospitals began when she was hired as a Nurse’s Aide at Coler-Goldwater Hospital. In 1987, she was elected shop steward and in 1999, Local 420 vice president. In 2002, members elected her overwhelmingly to lead Local 420.
Local 420 represents healthcare workers in NYC Health + Hospitals, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). She negotiates on behalf of her members at the city’s 11 acute-care hospitals, five long-term care facilities, over 500 clinics, at Riker’s Island jail and in the four city morgues.
As president, Charles has negotiated upgrades for her members, made the local more financially accountable and fought against contracting out, while encouraging members to organize and be active in their union.
Ms. Charles is a passionate champion of the city’s public health system and an ardent defender of workers’ rights. She tirelessly lobbies city and state lawmakers to fund public hospitals and she negotiates wage increases, job upgrades, improved working conditions and more for Local 420 members.
Twice recognized by City & State for her labor activism, Ms. Charles received the prestigious NAACP Freedom Leadership Award, the “Ernest De Maio Labor Award, the Spirit of Excellence Award and the Beacon of Hope Award in recognition of her leadership and unwavering commitment to public healthcare workers.
Charles is a fierce defender of respect and inclusivity at work. She champions issues such as healthcare for all, equal pay, and immigration reform.
“I believe in the mantra ‘In omnibus rerum subeundam’ – In all things solidarity,” said Charles, who mentors younger activists, especially women in labor. Charles is a graduate of the Cornell University’s Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Leadership Program.